What's the difference between 30 amp vs. 50 amp power for RVs? Can you connect one to the other? Here's what you need to know about the different types of RV plugs…
A member of our RV Lifestyle Facebook group recently asked our community about the differences between plugging into a 30 amp vs 50 amp outlet.
Christopher asked: “So what is the benefit to plugging my 30amp RV into a 50amp outlet with the adapter? Will it allow me to run more appliances? Or be better for my air conditioner?”
He received some flack in the comments from people who apparently thought the answer should be obvious, but many new RVers have the same questions. Thankfully, many RVers did reply with helpful comments and pointed out some important differences between the types of RV plugs and electrical connections.
We will share some of the helpful comments as well as explain some things you need to know about your RV's electrical system.
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3 Main Types of RV Plugs
There are three main types of RV plugs: 30 amp, 50 amp, and 15 amp. Let's explain the differences between these plugs, and then we'll answer the most common questions regarding them.
A 30-amp plug delivers up to 30 amps of electrical power to an RV and is most commonly found in older and smaller RVs. It has 3 prongs: a hot wire, a neutral wire, and a ground wire.
The hot wire delivers 120 volts of alternating current (AC) power to the RV, while the neutral wire returns the current to the source. The ground wire provides a safe path for any excess electrical current.
A 50-amp plug delivers up to 50 amps of electrical power to an RV. It is commonly found in large RVs and motorhomes with multiple air conditioning units, large appliances, and other power-hungry devices. It has 4 prongs.
The four prongs consist of two hot wires, a neutral wire, and a ground wire. The two hot wires deliver 120 volts each, for a total of 240 volts of AC power to the RV. The neutral wire returns the current to the source. And the ground wire provides a safe path for any excess electrical current.
15-amp plugs aren't common these days since they don't operate on as much power. But if you have an older RV or a very small travel trailer, you might have this kind of electrical hookup. These plugs can connect to standard electrical outlets or 30-amp power pedestals with this adapter.
How Do I Know Which Type of Plug I Have?
Your owner's manual will specify the kind of plug, but it's just as easy to look at your RV's plug. You can tell by the number and placement of its prongs:
- 30-amp plug: 3 prongs (2 angled flat prongs and 1 round prong)
- 50-amp plug: 4 prongs (3 straight flat prongs and 1 round prong)
- 15-amp plug: 3 prongs (2 straight flat prongs and 1 round prong– looks like standard house plug)
Can I Plug a 30-amp RV into a 50-amp Outlet?
Yes, you can use a 30-amp RV plug with a 50-amp outlet, but you'll need an adapter to connect. As mentioned, a 30-amp plug only has 3 prongs, whereas a 50-amp has 4. So, you cannot connect without an adapter.
There are plenty of adapter plugs online, but here is a good 50-amp to 30-amp Dogbone adapter with 50-amp male to 30-amp female.
Is There a Benefit to Plugging a 30-amp RV into 50-amp Outlets?
No, there is no power benefit to plugging a 30-amp RV into a 50-amp outlet. Your RV will not run off more power because it's plugged into a higher amperage power source.
A 30-amp RV is designed to run on only 30 amps. So, when you are plugged into shore power, it will only draw up to 30 amps as needed. If you have a 50-amp adapter, you can safely plug a 30-amp plug into a 50-amp adapter to run your RV.
That brings us to the one big benefit…
Some campgrounds only have 50-amp power outlets OR their 30-amp connection is bad. It's not uncommon to go to plug in your 30-amp cord only to realize the RV campgrounds' outlet is bad. If you have an adaptor, you have a plan b and can plug it into the 50-amp outlet (in sites that have both on the pedestal).
Can I Plug a 50-amp RV into a 30-amp Outlet?
Yes, you can plug a 50-amp RV into a 30-amp outlet with an adapter. However, your 50-amp system won't be operating at full power, so you may have to limit which appliances (like multiple AC units) you run simultaneously.
Here is a good 30 amp to 50 amp RV adaptor that has a 30 amp male to 50-amp female.
Do I Need to Use a Surge Protector With My RV Plug?
Yes, RV owners should always use an RV surge protector to protect their RV's electrical components. Power surges commonly damage or wipe out an RV's electrical system; you don't want to mess with that.
Some RVs have built-in surge protectors, but if yours doesn’t, we recommend 30 Amp Surge Guard or 50 Amp Surge Guard. You can get 5% off either of those surge protectors (or any TechnoRV products) with the coupon code RVLIFESTYLE5.
Do I Need an RV Extension Cord for Electric Hookups?
It's always a good idea to carry an extension for your RV power cord. Sometimes you need the extra length to reach the power pedestal at an RV park. We recommend the Camco 30′ 50-amp extension cord or the Camco 25′ 30-amp extension cord.
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RV Hookups for Beginners
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Jennifer and I have been doing this for a long time. So, sometimes we take for granted some of the beginner’s tasks that are now second nature to me. RV hookups being one of those things.
We realized I should take a step back and cover some basics that RV beginners need to know. And what better way to start than how to connect full hookups on your first stay at a campground?
As a first time RVer, you’re probably wondering what steps you need to take and in what order to do them. So, we're going to share the “general rules” and our best tips the new RVers need to know.
Continue reading RV Hookups for Beginners (5 Steps for Your First Trip)…
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